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Dimensions of Comprehension Diversity


Dimensions of Comprehension Diversity
(b) Axes of bias
(c) Epistemological mindscapes
(d) Modal preferences: facets of an appropriate mode

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This annex to Comprehension of Appropriateness presents some evidence for the variety of preferred modes of comprehension which must necessarily be honoured by any appropriate new mode of socio-economic organization, if only to avoid being eventually undermined by one of them.

(a) Frames of mind : multiple intelligences

A measure of intelligence may be considered as a measure of the individuals capacity to process information. There is a long held theory that there is a single measurable intelligence scale along which each individual can be assessed to derive an 'intelligence quotient'. As part of the recent Project on Human Potential of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Howard Gardner has reviewed a considerable body of evidence which questions the validity of this theory (25). He argues that the tests do not measure what they purport to, and are valid only for a small Western middle-class minority. This raises the question as to whether the prevailing concept of what constitutes meaningful 'information' about any new mode of socio-economic organization is not subject to similar distortion.

Gardner proceeds to demonstrate that there is persuasive evidence for the existence of several relatively autonomous human intellectual competences which he calls 'human intelligences' or 'frames of mind'. The exact nature of and breadth of each intellectual 'frame' has not so far been satisfactorily established, nor has the precise number of such intelligences been determined. It is however possible to demonstrate that several such intelligences exist, common to many cultures, each with its own patterns of development and brain activity, and each different in kind from the others. Gardner points out that the many previous efforts to establish independent intelligences have been unconvincing, chiefly because they rely on only one or, at the most, two lines of evidence.

Gardner presents evidence for the following distinct forms of intelligence:

  • linguistic intelligence, including: a sensitivity to the meaning of words and their subtle shades of difference; a sensitivity to the order among words and the rules governing such order; a sensitivity to the sounds, rhythms, inflections and meters of words; and a sensitivity to the different functions of language, namely its potential for exciting, convincing, stimulating, conveying information, or simply providing pleasure. Strangely however he makes no mention of competence in languages other than the mother tongue.
  • musical intelligence, including: sensitivity to pitch (or melody); sensitivity to rhythm, namely the organization of pitch over time; and sensitivity to timbre or the characteristic qualities of a tone.
  • logico-mathematical intelligence, including: sensitivity to possibilities of ordering and reordering objects, assessing their quantity; sensitivity to the actions that can be performed on objects, the relations that obtain among those actions, the statements (or propositions) that can be made about actual or potential actions, and the relationships among those statements.
  • spatial intelligence, including: capacities to perceive the visualworld accurately, to perform transformations and modifications upon initial perceptions, and to re-create aspects of visual experience, even in the absence of physical stimuli.
  • bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, including: the ability to use one's body in highly differentiated and skilled ways, for expressive as well as goal-directed purposes; the capacity to work skillfully with objects, both those involving delicate movements of the fingers and those involving complex movements of the body. (Gardner points out that the tendency to denigrate physical skills, in contrast to skills of the mind, is a Western academic bias not necessarily characteristic of other cultures).
  • personal intelligences, including: access to one's own feeling life and the capacity to affect discriminations among those feelings, to label them, to enmesh them in symbolic codes, to draw upon them as a means of understanding and guiding behaviour; the ability to notice and make distinctions among other individuals, especially among their moods, temperaments, motivations and intentions.

Gardner stresses that different forms of intelligence may be more readily accepted in different cultures. Whilst at the same time recognizing that although the logico- mathematical form may predominate in the West (which claims to have originated it), it is nevertheless present in tribal cultures (such as the Kalahari Bushman) in somewhat disguised forms.

Within this context the notion of intelligence that he advances involves the existence of one or more information-processing operations or mechanisms which can deal with specific kinds of input. He suggests that human intelligence might be defined as a neural mechanism or computational system which is genetically programmed to be activated or 'triggered' by certain kinds of internally or externally presented information. (25, p. 64). The operations of these mechanisms may be considered autonomous, without the 'modules' being yoked together. He points out that exponents of this modular view do not react favourably to the notion of a central information-processing mechanism that decides which module to invoke (25, p.55).

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